Because many ex-offenders face homelessness during their reentry to the community, our Reentry Project addresses barriers, with a focus on access to housing and jobs.
The Reentry Project designed a housing pilot, enacted in 2015 by the Chicago and Cook County housing authorities. The three-year pilots allow select reentry service providers to certify 50 high-performing clients for access to subsidized housing. Instead of imposing a five-year wait, the housing authorities allow certified ex-offenders to access a housing unit or rejoin family that lives in subsidized housing.
By December 2016, the Chicago Housing Authority had approved vouchers for 26 clients recommended by pilot partners St.Leonard’s Ministries and Safer Foundation. Our Reentry Project staff helped these busy providers prepare client applications. Meanwhile, Cook County’s housing authority placed two people via the pilot, as well as 41 more who were allowed to explain a past record and mitigating circumstances.
The Reentry Project also pursues initiatives to allow ex-offenders to access job opportunities that help them rebuild their lives. In 2016, CCH was a partner in a coalition that passed four job-access bills in schools, park districts and health care.
CCH’s Reentry Project is part of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI), organized in 2015 with Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance. RROCI advocates for policies that would remove barriers for people in reentry, including lifetime employment bans.
In its 2010 study, Barred from Housing, the Reentry Project asked the Chicago Housing Authority to end its automatic rejection of applicants who were on probation less than five years. Instead, CHA was asked to inform applicants that there is an appeal process available, and allow those who are denied to present a case that they have changed their lives. By 2013, the CHA adopted this appeals process, and the Reentry Project began to advocate the housing pilots. In 2016, Cook County’s housing authority adopted a similar process used during the initial application phase.
The Reentry Project is managed by a steering committee of formerly incarcerated women and men, service providers, educators, and advocates. Their work receives project-based grant support from The William R. Johnson Family Foundation.